One of the traditional songs of the Easter season (especially Palm Sunday) is what most deem a children's song. "Tell me the stories of Jesus, I love to hear!" The song, written by William Henry Parker was inspired by a question of a child in a Sunday School class that said, "teacher ... tell us another story." The song is a reminder of the power of song and story as children from 5 to 95 can readily sing this catchy tune. The story of that 1st Palm Sunday is both joyful, poignant and troubling.
People welcome their "king who comes in the name of the Lord" into Jerusalem. There are disciples that obediently go ahead of Jesus to secure the services of a donkey's foal from an owner who loans out the foal on the word of scrubby disciples who say "The Lord needs it." People spread palm branched down in the street and spread their cloaks on the road to welcome one who has filled their minds with expectations (mostly way off base). The Pharisees are troubled and ask Jesus to tell the people to stop (bad politics you know). Jesus tells the Pharisees that if the people were silent that the rocks would shout out. Jesus weeps over a city that has missed the point and proceeds into the temple driving out the cheating merchants. By the end of THIS story Jesus has managed to either confuse or enrage most everyone in town, all in a matter of 18 verses of Scripture. It was a solid days work for the Son of God ... whew!
Like most Biblical stories we see this one through simplistic glasses and with the same critical analysis we would employ to watch a television show. Meanwhile we do what the people of Jerusalem had done for Jesus' entire ministry ... we miss the real story and the deep things that are going on here.
There is the story of Jesus' expectation as he, and some of the disciples, know that this situation is both dangerous and deadly. The religious leaders are locked and loaded to destroy Jesus and have been waiting for this moment. The Romans are at the end of their patience with the turmoil and rebellion happening in Jerusalem ... the Homeland Security Advisory System is on red alert. The people are expecting mighty and powerful acts of God because they have listened to leaders who have either misinterpreted or ignored prophecy. The disciples are afraid and confused and, I'll bet, very uncomfortable with all the attention, especially when Jesus ups the ante by poking a sharp stick in the eye of the powers that be. And even Jesus' expectations are tempered by the human longing for a way that avoids what He knows will be painful, embarrassing an lethal.
The point is, I could write volumes on each of the subjects above. The story is complex and convicting of almost every human character. And what's worse, all of the negative behaviors in this story are behaviors we must share and own. We are those that misunderstand Jesus wanting a God that does what we think is good and right. We are those that praise Him one day and betray Him the next. We are the ones who watch by the Via Dolorosa confused about what to do for this man who calls Himself the Son of Man.
I invite each of you to come and share these stories. We will sing the songs of the season and hear the Scriptures that tell what has been called the greatest story of all. Come Palm Sunday (April 9) at either service and we will examine the story of the Triumphal Entry. Come Thursday (April 13) at 7pm and we will tell again the story of the Last Supper (in this place and with your church is where you are called to be). Come Friday (April 14) at 7pm as we reflect on that dark day on the cross. Come Saturday (April 15) to Judi Cassidy's as we gather and fellowship with our children, expectantly waiting for Sunday. Come Sunday (April 16, 9am or 11am) and celebrate the Risen Christ. Let God's Word lead you to the knowledge that this story is personal. You are in the story and your life, reaction, obedience, rebellion and (hopefully) salvation connect you to the tree of life and the God of Scripture that was, is and is to come. Randy